“Our results strengthen the arguments for an increased awareness on the health of children with a foreign background, as well as girls' health in general,” said Heidi Carlerby, A PhD student behind the report, in a statement.
The study showed that girls with both parents born outside of Sweden have a 27 percent increased risk of developing symptoms like headaches, stomach pain and depression compared to girls with two Swedish parents.
Boys with a “mixed” background; with one Swedish and one foreign parent, were three times as likely to suffer from bad health than boys with two Swedish parents.
“Some of the differences in health and well-being can be explained by gender, parental background as well as the different financial circumstances of the families,” said Carlerby.
Three in ten children with foreign parents came from families with a low level of tangible assets, which are measured through access to car, computer, own room and holidays with the family. The corresponding number among children with Swedish parents was less than one in ten.
“It shows the need for health-promoting efforts in school through activities and programmes focusing on the social consequences of foreign heritage and the material assets of the family,” Carlerby said.
The aim of the study was to analyse the social factors of health among girls and boys in Sweden, with focus on the parents' background. 11,972 children in year 5 (11 years old), 7 and 9 took part in a survey on three occasions, of which some 20 percent were of foreign parentage.
An additional survey from 2011 was also included, which encompassed 1,527 children in years 6-9 from Östersund municipality in northern Sweden.